I was reading a blog post last week by Richard Byrne entitled “The Things I Wish Every Teacher Knew About Technology.” (I'm presuming it's inspired by the super popular #IWishMyTeacherKnew, which is powerful read, in case you're interested.)
But I digress. Back to Byrne's post--which stuck with me for a few days--because the thing I most encounter in my job is complete and abject fear of technology: both the fear of failing with it and the fear of succeeding with it. (Ironic, no?)
I totally get the paralyzing fear of failing thing: What if this doesn’t work? What if I look like a fool in front of my students?
My answer is always, What if you do? What's the absolute worst that could happen?
I’ve addressed the subject of failure pretty regularly on this site, so I won’t belabor the point except to say this: The only failing is in ceasing to try. To quote Michael Jordan, “I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”
Now, the fear of success thing had me puzzled for a while, until I was enlightened by a former superintendent whose advice I seek out on a regular basis. Fear of succeeding, he explained, means that you have to keep “upping your game;” that as soon as you master something, you’ll be expected to keep improving and to keep mastering, and then the expectations just keep getting greater and greater, until we overwhelm ourselves with, Well, if this works how long before the next thing comes along that I have to learn? When will it end?
My response? Why would we want learning to end?
We should always remember that our goal as educators is to create lifelong learners. Let’s model what that looks like by failing and succeeding. And isn’t that a totally awesome-sauce life lesson for our students?
There's nothing to be afraid of. I pinky swear.
Last week, Mrs. H asked me to help her devise a plan to teach Google Drive, Docs, Slides, and Drawings to her sixth grade class.
And I started doing just that.
And then I slowed my roll.
And then my slow roll screeched to a halt.
Because sometimes I have to remind myself--even though I preach it like it’s my job and I’m getting paid for it (Oh, wait...I am!)--that I have to get the heck out of the way when it comes to learning.
Because when it comes to teaching, there’s a very delicate balance among leading, following, and getting out of the way:
Direct instruction (or “leading”) is the most predominant method of instructional delivery, and it occasionally has its place in the classroom; but it should be limited. Very limited. Like no more than a ten to fifteen minutes kind of limited.
Since my own classroom epiphany in 2008, I've tended to favor the “What Can the Kids Teach Me?” method of pedagogy (or what I like to call “following”). If 90% of what we retain is what we teach, then we should be encouraging our students to find their own answers by doing and teaching themselves.
Now, with regard to the above-mentioned scenario regarding Mrs. H's request, I opted to be the guide on the side--or what I call the teacher-bordered classroom (aka, “get out of the way”). What does this look like, exactly? It’s a combination of acting like a border collie while letting the sheep sometimes run amok. Actually, it’s more professional than that. Ever hear of Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development? It’s where learning occurs just beyond the level of what students can do independently. Sort of a “lead-them-to-water-and-then-let-them drink” mentality.
What this involves is not telling...but asking. Not asking recall questions, but thought-provoking ones. Questions that demand exploration and investigation. Questions without easy answers. Questions that lead to creation.
And that’s when I came up with the idea of what I call the “Explore - Do” model. (Okay, okay...it’s not exactly a trademark-able name, but it does the job.) Instead of teaching Mrs. H’s kiddos, I opted to let them play in the digital sandbox and teach themselves.
In this glorious day and age of collaboration and social media, I tweeted out my idea, hoping others could use it in their classrooms. My buddy Jake Miller got me thinking:
We have to get out of their way sometimes and allow them to think for themselves.
Maybe it makes me smart or maybe it makes me lazy.
Either way, I believe it works out best in the end for them.
If you’ve heard the expression “Bye, Felicia!” ad nauseum recently, you can thank the 20-year anniversary of rapper/actor Ice Cube’s comedy flick “Friday” for its revival. If you’re not familiar, click here to understand its popularity. (Warning: The video clip is NSFW. Funny, yes, but definitely NSFW.) Anyway, I’m appropriating the phrase here because it’s succinctly and incredibly apt in describing the way I’ve revamped my own approach to professional development in 2016.
As they currently exist, professional development sessions can best be described as “sit and get” assemblies that fail to produce long-lasting and robust change. Professional development needs to be better. It needs to be more about development. And it certainly needs to be more professional. If we’re making demands on educators to transform the way we deliver instruction (i.e., collaboration, differentiation, and problem-based learning), then shouldn’t we also be transforming the way we help educators learn?
So, I’ve resolved to get better, not bitter. Here’s the thing, though: resolutions--like yoga poses--aren’t my specialty. In fact, I’m actually pretty awful at both. Don’t get me wrong: I’m great at intending to do them, but it’s the actual execution of them where I fall painfully short. However, as I’ve mentioned, I’ve been “beta-testing” my PD resolutions (the whole putting-my-money-where-my-mouth-is-thing) to welcome reception over the last year.. So with that said, here’s hoping my 2016 test balloon results in 2017 productive results. And that’s why I’m saying sayonara to the following outdated PD practices:
1. Being the Expert. Personally, I don't like to make my workshops about me. (Which will certainly come as a surprise to anyone who knows me!) Yes, I like to provide useful websites and some kick-start ideas for incorporating them into your teaching. But, no, I don't particularly care to lecture at teachers. And frankly, I grow weary of the sound of my northeast Ohio nasal twang. (As do others.) Once I decided to stop talking and start listening, though, I realized that I was often standing in front of a room full of other professionals with their own experiences from whom I could learn, too!
The Result: My PD sessions are now (mostly) collaborative sessions where I encourage full participation, sharing, and even sometimes handing over the reins to audience members who have something to teach the rest of us. (That’s my favorite part!)
How It Works: I open all of my PD sessions with the following disclaimer slide: “We are a collaborative group of learners; there are no absolute experts in this room. Like our students, we learn best by doing...and learning is a process.” This sets the tone that I’m not the sage and my audience isn’t the empty vessel. It also takes the pressure off of me to feel like I have to know everything. In addition, I always have a collaborative Google Doc going where participants are encouraged to add their ideas, successes, questions for others, and other educational technology tools.
2. One Size Fits All. One of the things that always plagued me in the past was trying to keep everyone learning and creating at the same pace. It was frustrating for my reluctant adopters and tedious for my whiz kids. And then it hit me: “Duh! How come I’m not differentiating learning for my particular learners???” Now, when I present, I try keep it short and sweet and hand over the remainder of my allotted time to the teachers, allowing them to pursue their own learning at their own pace. I offer up a leveled challenge so that all learners--regardless of where they fall on the technology adoption spectrum--still leave having created something applicable to their own classroom and students.
The Result: The whiz kids speed ahead sans boredom, the collaborators work together and assist each other via peer learning, and I get to devote my full attention to the baby steps group, who self-profess to learning best when guided.
How It Works: Since my presentations have built-in “do” time after “learn” time, I always create a learning challenge or task to apply what we’ve covered. Using polling software (my current favorite is Mentimeter), I ask participants to self-assess their learning style based on the following choices: 1) I’m a lone wolf. I learn best by exploring on my own; 2) Buddy system: I don’t go into the water without a partner; and 3) Baby Steps: Please hold my hand and walk me through this! We then break into respective groups and get to work! Everyone leaves happy and creatively satisfied.
3. Breezing In & Out. The one-and-done approach to professional development is done like dinner. Gone with the wind. Over. In an attempt to be more collaborative, and especially in this age of social media, learning should continue beyond the four walls of the classroom--and beyond the four walls of the seminar room. Keep the conversation going with your audience by connecting with them after all is said and done.
The Result: Everyone gets heard, everyone is validated, and no one feels alone. And you’ve created your own little virtual PLC!
How It Works: I always create a session evaluation Google form to be completed at the conclusion of my sessions, and I also ask for email addresses so that I can inform participants of the latest and greatest updates to our topic at hand. I’m currently exploring the idea of Google Communities to keep the learning going, too. Sometimes, I’ll create a Remind group for the same purpose, but I definitely need to improve my upkeep skills with that one. (Another resolution?) In addition, don’t forget to invite your audience to follow you on social media as well.
And there you have it: help transform pedagogy by transforming professional development. I definitely think these are resolutions (or intentions or goals or whatever the heck you want to call them) that I can actually keep. In the spirit of practicing what I preach, please feel free to reach out to me with your best PD tactics.
In return, I promise to work on my yoga poses. Namaste, peeps!
I've been a visual learner my whole life.
As a student, my hand-scribed notes were always accompanied by graphic organizers, and my index card flashcards were accompanied by some type of hand-drawn visual cue. (For example, in order to remember what word "libertatis" meant for a Latin exam, I sketched a picture of the Statue of Liberty next to the word...because "libertatis" means "freedom.")
All that sketching and visualizing? It turns out I was ahead of my time.
Presently, infographics have taken center stage, as you may have noticed. It's because the less-words-and-more-images approach has been scientifically proven to increase information retention. According to Mary Jo Madda in her article entitled "Why Your Students Forgot Everything on Your PowerPoint Slides," our kiddos are in cognitive overload with our bullet-laden PowerPoint slides and the redundancy effect of us reading aloud from them.
(Not that any of my dear readers even remotely resemble the economics teacher from "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," I'm certain. I'm just trying to make a point.)
Imagine trying to pour water into an already-full glass. Now you have a clear image of what cognitive overload is all about.
In order to avoid cognitive overload, Richard Mayer, a brain scientist and author of the book Multimedia Learning, offers the following solution: Eliminate textual elements from presentations and instead talk through points, sharing images or graphs with students. (You can watch a quick video of his theory here. More visual learning--yay!)
Data visualization is totally legit. Just ask David McCandless, who takes mind-numbing data and transforms it into beautiful and simple graphics because, as he so accurately puts it, good design is the best way to navigate information glut. His TED talk on the subject absolutely and firmly convinced me to drink the infographic Kool-Aid. For those of you who think that infographics dumb-down our kids or spoon-feed them information, watch this 17-minute talk. As McCandless demonstrates, identifying and evaluating the hidden patterns in data visualization is higher-level thinking at its best.
Still not convinced? Then you really need to check out this infographic about why infographics are so essential. (An infographic about infographics? How totally meta!)
In any event, I'm practicing what I preach. The other day, this very helpful post from Eric Curts' blog Control Alt Achieve came my way: "26 YouTube Shortcuts Everyone Should Know." I wanted to share it with the teachers in my district, but I knew if I forwarded it, it would get stuck in the vast virtual wasteland of inboxes, or worse yet, it would get printed and forever lost in the shuffle of the perpetual paper piles. I wanted to condense it, because while it was incredible relevant and useful--it was just still too wordy for me.
That's when I busted out my favorite graphic design tool, Canva, and its spawn, Canva Infographic Maker. Like it promises, Canva does indeed make design simple for everyone. If you're new to Canva, I HIGHLY recommend pouring yourself a glass of wine and giving over an hour of your life to Canva Design School's tutorials. Seriously. Otherwise, you'll just be re-creating your crappy PowerPoints in a new platform.
Okay, enough talk. How about a little show? Here's what I made in under an hour, using Eric's content:
While I know I'm not going to light the graphic design industry on fire, I'm still pretty proud of myself.
So what do you think? Ready to give it a try yourself? How about transforming one of your current PowerPoint presentations and comparing the before and after versions? You'll be amazed at what you can create. And your students will be grateful that you've saved their brains from overload.
Image courtesy of MemeGenerator
As my spring break winds down, I consider the fact that we've only got nine more weeks until the end of another school year--and that everything I'd hoped to accomplish in the previous 27 weeks somehow didn't get done. (Isn't that always the case?)
It also gets me thinking about what I've observed and learned this year and how it will shape our district goals for the upcoming school year. For example, one of our schools drained its paper budget halfway through the year, which had more than a few teachers worried about how they'd manage to provide lesson materials for their students. Which begs the question, "What needs to change? And if we're experiencing these issues, aren't other districts as well?"
Change is tough; and it's usually based in fear--the fear of the unknown, the fear of failure, the fear of leaving our comfort zone. But fear prevents us from moving forward, and moving forward is what we need to constantly do in education. Of course, change is scary. And uncertain. And yes, risky.
So teachers, don those Ray-Bans, crank up the Bob Seger, strip down to your tighty-whities, and take these risks in your classroom:
1. Attempt to Move More Content Online
Before you hit the copy machine to make another 30 copies of a worksheet, ask yourself, "Is there a way to do this online?" Make the move to digital content: post to your website, use tools like Wizer and Edulastic for worksheets and formatives, seek out online textbooks and Open Education Resources, direct students to create digital alternatives to research papers. Stop swimming in a sea of paper!
2. Let Your Students Teach Sometimes
Let go of the reigns once in a while. If 90% of what we learn is what we teach, then shouldn't our current model be flipped? Your students are already engaged in collaborative groups and jigsaw activities, so take it a step further: let them create mini-lessons. They'll be more invested in their learning!
3. Give Flipping a Try
Students today grew up with and presently maintain constant Internet access: YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and a myriad of other digital resources. They're used to online content, so give it to them. Besides that, it makes sense to open up classroom time to working with students instead of sending them home to try out newly-learned (and often-not-yet-understood) concepts.
4. Transform Your Learning Space
Sitting in rows of desks is an archaic concept, and certainly not aligned with post-school workspaces--which are often designed for creativity and collaboration. Physical spaces are central to creating a new paradigm for learning. Change up your seating configurations, create purposeful zones, bring in mood lighting. Get some great ideas here.
5. Embrace Social Media
(See #3 above for justification.) Don't mistake social media for socializing. Besides, reaching out to students beyond the four walls of the classroom creates genuine connections and extends learning. Frankly, you can't be considered a 21st-century educator if you're not willing to adopt 21st-century technologies. Your students will be grateful for it!
Education is evolution. And it's worth the risk.
image via Flickr
One tweet. That's how it all started.
And I knew I'd never teach the same way again.
When Mrs. G. asked me to teach my book trailer unit to her sixth graders, I jumped at the chance, but with a caveat: I wasn't going to teach it the same way I had in the past. And I literally meant that: I wasn't going to teach it, but I would very happily guide, encourage, and coach it.
(Thank goodness for forward-thinking teachers like Mrs. G. She didn't once flinch, frown, or freak out, but instead encouraged my request to simply try differently.)
A few months before this, I'd read an online post by Chris Friend about the importance of letting students take the lead in their learning:
A class discussion where the teacher pre-determines the outcome is just a lecture in disguise, dressed up to feel student-centered while still being instructor-directed. When a class involves discussion, we owe it to our students to not know what’s going to happen, lest we start dictating what we want them to think.
A class discussion where the teacher pre-determines the outcome is just a lecture in disguise, dressed up to feel student-centered while still being instructor-directed. When a class involves discussion, we owe it to our students to not know what’s going to happen, lest we start dictating what we want them to think.
While Friend's comments are specific to classroom discussions, they certainly apply to the larger picture of learning in the 21st century, and I'd been waiting for the right moment (and a willing teacher) to embrace the philosophy of student-centered and "teacher-bordered" learning. Nylen's post in my Twitter feed came at the exact same time I proposed my plan of hanging on the sidelines instead of calling the plays. (There are no coincidences.)
I project Nylen's Tweet to the students. They read it, then look to me to explain it to them. I smile at them. They look to Mrs. G. to explain away the crazy lady smiling at them. Mrs. G. smiles at them. They smile back nervously, scanning the room for hidden cameras. This has to be a joke, right?
I finally break the awkward science by asking, "Is this true? Do you need Mrs. G. and me? What if we don't tell you what to do? What if we just let you find the answers for yourself?" They look, admittedly, a little afraid. And why shouldn't they? Everything to this point in their academic career has been mostly teacher-directed.
"How many of you play Minecraft?" I continue. Half the hands shoot up.
"Cool," I remark. "So, which one of your teachers taught you how to play it?"
And that's the moment it clicks for everybody.
Now they're smiling at me.
The work begins. The project is outlined, tutorial videos and useful links are posted to Edmodo for reference, but no lectures are given. "Ask 3 Before Me, " we say. "Troubleshoot. Use the help section in iMovie. Google your questions. Try, mess up, try again." They're a little frustrated, for sure, but here's the thing: I tell them that I really don't know iMovie all that well. (A lie, but Mrs. G. and I want them to go cold turkey on their teacher dependence.)
"Wait...WHAT?" a student indignantly cries. "Then why are you teaching us this?"
"But I'm not teaching it to you," I tease. "Remember?"
At the beginning of class, I find myself falling into to the comfortable and involuntarily role of lecturing. (Habits are hard to break.) Ashley interrupts, "Hey, Ms. D. . .can we get started please? We can figure it out."
I literally laugh out loud. And keep a list of what I overhear students asking each other and commenting upon during the next hour.
DAYS FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, AND EIGHT
I've never managed less and accomplished more as a teacher. It's weird, in a way, not dashing all over the lab putting out individual fires.
And here's what happens, as a result of my letting go: Some students naturally take on coaching roles with each other; some become experts at specific things (transitions, adding sound effects); some even become critics of each others' book trailers, giving very constructive advice (you know, the kind a teacher might offer).
I don't feel like they don't need me, because of course they still do, and of course I still help.
But. . .
They've learned to rely on themselves and on each other. As a parent and as an instructional coach, that's always my end goal. And yet, it never was when I was a full-time teacher. My students and I had developed a co-dependent relationship where they looked to me for all the answers and I happily supplied them.
When we finish the project (and before we start planning our film festival!) I project Nylen's tweet again. "Do you agree?" I ask. "Did this experiment work? Did Mrs. G. and I give you answers or did you find them for yourselves? And are you a better learner because of it?"
Logan raises his hand, and in that brief moment I experience a fleeting panic, hoping he won't prove me wrong. I notice I'm holding my breath.
"So when do we get to 'support' you learning how to play Minecraft?" he asks with a self-satisfied laugh.
I breathe and laugh, too. "Whenever you're ready. As long as you don't teach me."
t's rather unlike me to return from a trip and toss my suitcase in a corner; that baby's unloaded and returned to the attic within twenty minutes of my homecoming--which is why I apologize in advance for the delay in sharing this post. (It should have been written weeks ago!)
I'm an enthusiastic fan of edcamps and the genuine alternative to traditional PD they offer. And being an edcamp cheerleader means I unabashedly offer my thoughts and takeaways from edcamp in an effort to get more of my colleagues to drink the Kool Aid.
This year's EdCampCLE was held on March 21, 2015, and it was like a homecoming reunion, catching up with the awesome "campers" I met last year. Seriously...I wish we could take the energy, enthusiasm, and great ideas from our sessions and start our own school. But since we can't, I'm unpacking my bags and sharing my shiny travel souvenirs:
1. Homework for a grade is NOT a valuable learning experience.
I attended this session entitled "Evolution of homework: What do you assign, when, and how much? Are you flipping your content? Should you?" because I'm working with a very frustrated teacher who continually assigns homework that his students very rarely complete. Why continue the battle?, I ask. What's the point? Personally, I'm in the anti-homework camp; I see it as purposeless busywork. Too many teachers assign it because they feel they have to; too many students rush through it with the same apathy. As a parent, I know that I've spent more time than is ethically scrupulous helping my sons with theirs.
One teacher argued in favor of making homework subject-specific, like math. I can get on board with that, what with the application-necessary nature of it. This is definitely an argument for flipping the content and for creating stations in the classroom. (Teachers: you don't HAVE to assign homework. Shift your focus: make the classroom learning experience more valuable.)
Another teacher, firmly entrenched in the pro-homework camp, found a compromise with which his students can work: homework is optional, but students can't "level up" if they haven't mastered the standard associated with that homework. I like this gaming aspect of homework, and definitely think it has some merit on two fronts: mastering standards (not homework) and creating autonomy and accountability within learners.
Finally, there's the option to simply not grade homework at all, but instead, to give priority to the summative and formative assessments. This was offered up by a teacher whose administration demands homework but who personally doesn't believe in it himself.
The hour-long conversation was stimulating and thought-provoking. But homework, at least as it's still being assigned, is completely worthless.
2. If you want to transform the way your students learn, then transform your learning space.
In October, I got the chance to visit a school that's completely dismantled and rebuilt learning spaces, and the two mantras from that visit I continually quote to teachers is the following: Get the crap off your walls and remove your teacher desk (aka "Fort Desk.") Teachers are infamous hoarders and we also have the antiquated notion that we need to cover every inch of our classroom walls with posters, banners, and student work. If I had my own classroom today, it would resemble an office space similar to Google or Microsoft: stripped down, inviting, and designed for collaboration. Oh, and with deliberate learning zones (or stations or pods...whatever you want to call them)!
The teachers in the "Creating 21st Learning Spaces" session want to do the same. In fact, plenty of them already have! And the primary idea is to keep the space clean and simple to minimize the distractions. We also floated the idea of (gasp!) ditching desks. One teacher bought high rounds (like those found in pubs) for his classroom students who need a break from sitting. Another keeps a few exercise balls in the classroom; still another shared her story of finding "that room" in the building where all the castoffs go and finding tables to replace the desks in her room. Finally, one very brave teacher decided to put her money where her mouth is: the following Monday she said goodbye to her teacher desk for good!
3. If we ask teachers to change the way they teach, then let's change the way we teach them.
The majority of my job entails reaching out to teachers, and my biggest concern is that many teachers limit themselves to the confines of the four walls of our classrooms. Literally. There's very little time provided to teachers to go exploring...both literally and figuratively. Two edcampCLE sessions helped me think of new ways to encourage both empowerment and collaboration: "Administration in the Digital Age. How do we empower teachers to be the best version of themselves without overwhelming them?" and "Break down those walls! How do we collaborate with other teachers in our own buildings?"
If our goal is to make learning fun again, then let's make teaching fun again--without overwhelming our teachers by throwing a bunch of new tech tools at them and hoping something will stick. Let's face it: traditional PD doesn't work anymore. And quite frankly, I'm pretty sure most of the teachers I work with hear "I want to fix you," when I say, "You do this really well, and here's something that will make it easier and more fun for you."
Some ideas tossed around that I'm definitely going to audition:
There. The bags are unpacked. And I'm determined to not put those precious souvenirs on the shelf to gather dust. Thanks, again, EdCampCLE. See you next year!
I missed my own birthday.
This blog--a true labor of love--turned one year old on February 20th.
When I thought about starting this venture last January, I was--in a word--miserable. I was in a school that was closing, in a job that wasn't professionally satisfying, and facing a very grim financial future. I had spent the good part of the previous year relentlessly pursuing every job lead I could find (100+ of them), even those barely remotely related to education.
I was frightened, anxious, depressed, worried, hopeless, and angry. When you have no idea what the next step is and when you're approaching rock bottom at lightning speed, the world seems like a pretty bleak and cruel place.
But when you're on your knees, it's time to look up. And so I did.
I'm not one of those people who turns to my faith only in times of crisis, but I do spend an inordinate amount of time trying not to rely on it too much. I like being in charge and being in control. Putting my fate in another's hands is difficult for me.
However, I'd spent so much time trying to prevent everything from spiraling out of control--trying to stave off fear--that I needed to be reminded I wasn't in charge. To be reminded of the beauty of fear.
Yes, that's right. The beauty of fear. At the intersection of despondency and abject panic, my higher power directed me to embrace fear.
I'd always thought that fear was something to be avoided. Naturally, we all do. It's painful and yucky and uncomfortable. Why would I welcome it into my life, set a place for it at my dinner table, and give it the guest room?
Because fear can paralyze you, and if you don't confront it--if you aren't willing to enter into a relationship and get to know it--then it will crush you. So, at the exact moment I was at my most fearful, divine intervention brought this to my attention:
So, once I agreed to ride the waves instead of getting sucked under by the riptide, once I remembered that worrying is like sitting in a rocking chair (it gives you something to do but gets you nowhere), I seized uncertainty and turned the tables, perfectly accepting fear.
While I waited for my dream job, I decided to occupy myself as if I already had it. I'd set my sights on transitioning from a classroom teacher to an instructional coach; so in the meantime, I was going to act like I was.
I'd been advised by a Twitter contact to start blogging, to create a website, to brand myself, to get my name out there and share my ideas with other educators. And while I was reluctant at first, thinking, Great, just what the world needs--another jackass with an opinion, I eventually said, The hell with it. I've got something to offer.
And here we are. I got peace of mind. I got followers. I got great feedback.
And I got my dream job. Finally.
Fear and I have reached an understanding: I'll stop trying to avoid it, and in turn, fear promises to help me grow.
I highly recommend dancing with fear. Everything you've ever wanted is on the other side of it.
Watts quotation via apisanet; Tolle quotation created by me with Canva
We're on the final day of #OETC15, and while I'm looking forward to returning home and to my boys, I'm going to miss the people I've met. From presenters to teachers to coaches, Ohio has a plethora of dedicated educators ready to transform learning and I'm thankful to them! (And thankful, too, to Twitter and Google Hangouts. Because of them, I can continue the conversations that began here.)
While I experienced more than that about which I'm writing today, it's this morning's keynote speech that impactfully resonated with me and one which my brain simply refuses to evict. It seems an exceptional presentation on which to reflect and dissect, and with which to conclude my series on #OETC15.
Fixing the Past or Inventing the Future: Education Reforms that Matter
Yong Zhao is the Presidential Chair and Director of the Institute for Global and Online Education in the College of Education at the University of Oregon
You gotta love a man (and a Duck!) who bravely comes to Columbus on the heels of losing the national championship.
And I'm so glad he did.
Dr. Yong Zhao's message of entrepreneurial-based education reform is desperately needed in this day and age of "college and career readiness." Especially in an era where 53% of our most recent college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. (That is not a typo.)
Instead of touting college and career readiness, Dr. Zhao encourages us to instead embrace a culture of "out-of-the-basement readiness," which is especially apt with our boomerang generation. (And, frankly, especially hilarious when you think about it. Or especially sad if you yourself are the parent of said basement-dweller.)
The disconnect between education and career these days, notes Dr. Zhao, can be contained in the metaphor of Nokia vs. Apple. (The metaphor appeals to the former English teacher in me.) Do you remember Nokia phones? In a nutshell, Apple didn't kill Nokia; Nokia killed Nokia by trying to add smart features to a dumb phone, and in inventing the smart phone, well...we all know how that turned out for Apple.
If you apply this metaphor to current education reforms, our Industrial Age model of education is the dumb phone, and yet we're trying to pile on smart features (technology, Common Core, NGAs) to that dumb phone. It epically failed for Nokia, so what makes us think it will succeed for education?
Dr. Zhao asserts, and the current statistics certainly support, that our children are miseducated in that they are educated for the wrong economy. A good education should keep your children out of the basement--not destine them to it.
So our current model is failing our students; certainly not making them college and career ready. Our "homogenous sausage-making" approach fails to give birth to visionaries, creators, makers, inventors, and problem-solvers: which is exactly what a global economy needs.
Dr. Zhao urges us as educators to invent a new smart phone. If creativity is job security today, then let's (please!) abandon the homogenous model of learning. We tend to devalue innovation and creativity in the classroom because we're pressured to get the students ready for "the test." And as we all know, "the test" precludes innovation and creativity. (An interesting fact: 40% of Google employees don't have college degrees. Think about THAT.)
Our new smartphone model of education should both permit and accommodate the following for each and every student:
In Dr. Zhao's words, "schools should become personalized learning ecosystems."
How great is that?
What if we allowed for product-oriented learning? What if--instead of testers--we created innovators? What if we provided future-oriented experiences for our learners? What if we practiced what we preached? What if we truly decided to start a revolution to make our students both college and career ready?
Yes, I suppose we need to have the tests; they measure growth. But if employees have evaluations, shouldn't students have the same--with authentic products that serve a REAL purpose in our real world? Do we have to have tests only?
We have to chuck the idea of "traditional" classrooms and "traditional" learning. We have to, as Dr. Zhao asserts, "stop fixing the past and invent the future." We simply have to.
Or America's going to have a lot of dumb phones on its hands.
It's Day 2 here at OETC15, and judging from how difficult it was to obtain parking, SRO at the keynote session isn't surprising. (Seriously, I spent more time in the line for the parking garage than I did getting here this morning.)
It was great bumping into my favorite peeps from back home, and even better sharing what we've learned AND bouncing ideas off each other. I especially enjoyed running into an old friend from my teaching days.
Then it was time to go learn something...
Session #1: Call It What You Want! Smashing, Crashing, Slamming iPad Apps 2.0 - Using Tech for Deeper Learning
Jen and Karen are tech coaches for the Mentor schools and two people who I've come to rely on quite a bit for outstanding advice and support as I make this journey. Their presentation not only provided a useful list of apps, but it also offered up a "philosophy" for app smashing:
Session #2: Changing Roles of Students and Teachers in Instruction & Learning
I knew weeks ago that I would attend Anthony Luscre's presentation on the shifting paradigm of education because I've been talking myself blue about the teacher/learner shift for at least six years now, so it's always comforting to find a kindred spirit. Here's what I learned:
Session #3: Your School's Story Matters! Use Social Media to Tell It
A little self-promtoion never hurt anyone (or any district)...and everyone loves a good story. Principal Ryan McLane and Assistant Principal Eric Lowe shared their social media story with us.
Don't expect people to come to you. We need to go where they are, and that's at:
Digital Learning Coach in Cleveland, Ohio, sharing innovative technology ideas.